KAMLOOPS — It's years of consultation, fundraising, and construction, but now the Sun Peaks Family Practice is operational, officially opening its doors to local residents on Monday.
Dr. Shane Barclay is seeing Kyla White's son Elliott on just the second day. White, who's lived in Sun Peaks with her husband and Elliott for a year, said the clinic is a huge weight off her shoulders.
"Having the health centre here has been a huge difference for us," she said. "Our little guy here has had a number of health issues over his first years and it's been a challenge trying to get in and out of town all the time for him. Having a family doctor up here is incredible for us."
For the past 15 years, doctors from Kamloops have been driving into the community to provide care for people on a limited basis. But after a year of construction that started at the end of 2016, the four-room clinic is looking after patients.
Dr. Barclay is the only physician at the moment, but there is a second coming in the new year. Dr. Barclay moved from Salt Spring Island, where he had his own practice, and he's not foreign to practicing in smaller communities.
"I've been in this situation a few times," said Dr. Barclay. "I worked in the Northwest Terrorities for seven years and I was a solo doc in a community with four nurses. I flew out once a week to small communities with 75 to 150 people."
According to the 2016 census, Sun Peaks has 616 residents. After two days, the family practice has nearly that number of patients signed up.
"An average panel is about 1,200 patients. We've already got 450 and we've been open two days," said executive director Laura Bantock, who's also a registered nurse. "So I don't think we're going to have any problems getting to that panel size."
The clinic will be accepting Kamloops residents in January, but for now the first priority is Sun Peaks residents, resort employees, both full-time and part-time, as well people living in surrounding communities.
"Our plan is to have any of the local residents register first," noted Bantock. "We include Heffley, Louis Creek, the surrounding areas in the valley coming up to Sun Peaks."
Bantock added, "I absolutely think there will be people who will travel here. There's people from Kamloops actually that deliver services up here, so for some people it's actually not inconvenient at all to have a family doctor here."
Jennifer Cox, her husband, and 9-month-old Charles are among the patients already signed up. They moved from Victoria and were on the list immediately after registration opened on Dec. 4.
"If anything were to happen, of course we have other emergency response up here. But knowing that there is a whole, available medical staff here, full-time, even if it's just regular business hours, it makes me feel a lot better knowing that we don't have to rush to town to see somebody," said Cox.
With Dr. Barclay's previous rural experience, he can do anything and everything a patient might need. For Cox, the family practice is one of the final pieces Sun Peaks needed.
"It's the next stage in the community's development that there's a full-time doctor up here," she said. "I feel like it's rounding out. It was a school, then there's so many other community organizations and features, but having a full-time doctor feels like we're a fuller community."
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